Mining for memories through music

by Town Reminder

Gold award

Mining for memories through music

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY –A spoon making the rounds in a metal pan; the steady hum of a lawn mower; Benny Goodman’s clarinet licks. Just like site and smell, sound can transport someone back to his or her grandmother’s kitchen, a warm summer day or a nightclub in the big band era.
Memories are associated with all senses. But for Alzheimer’s patients, retrieving them is not easy. However, new research shows specific songs of particular significance to an Alzheimer’s patient triggers buried memories. Music also has the power to reduce stress, swing a mood from bad to good and stimulate the brain.
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, such responses occur because “rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues.”
A patent’s ability to respond to music, by tapping their foot or singing along, even in a later stage of the disease, remains intact because “these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success.”
Lyndssey Pisano, 16, of South Hadley, has experienced this reaction first hand with her great aunt, an Alzheimer’s patient, who recently passed away. “I actually saw her light up when she listened to her Italian music,” said Pisano. “It shows that people are a lot more happy when listening to music they like.”
Inspired by a radio commercial touting the benefits of music therapy for those battling Alzheimer’s Disease, backed with her personal experience, Pisano developed a Girl Scout Gold Award project for her troop 40144 to assist patients at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home Alzheimer’s Unit in finding that peace.
She will survey the 50 patients, their family and on-site caretakers about their favorite genres and eras of music. From that information, Pisano will develop individualized play lists for the patients. These play lists will then be uploaded to 50 different apple devices.
Pisano is seeking from the community donations of used iPod shuffles, iPod nanos and iPod touches. These would be donated to the Holyoke Soldier’s Home with the play lists on them. The Apple devices would remain with the Soldier’s Home to be reused again and again.
“Instead of having them sit in your house, you can help someone retrieve memories,” she said. “Their quality of life would be better.”
Drop boxes have been set up at the South Hadley Public Library, located at 27 Bardwell St., and at Pioneer Valley Physical Therapy Partners, located at 84 Willimansett St. where locals can donate their old or used iPods.
Pisano is excited to assist a generation who gave so much to indirectly benefit her and her peers.
“I’m happy I am able to go something to give back to them,” she said.
For more information about the project or to coordinate a donation, Pisano can be reached at